Releases > July 2010 releases

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Lá Nua
Lúnasa Records LRCD001
10 tracks, 47 minutes
I haven’t heard Lúnasa so frolicsome in a long while. Lá Nua is a breath of fresh air, even by these guys’ standards. On album number seven now, you might have expected there to be signs of fatigue: but no! Quite the opposite: Kevin Crawford’s New Day March opens a set which takes me back to Sean Smyth’s 1993 Blue Fiddle recording, brilliant and boisterous. Doc Holliday’s is another playful medley, three tunes by Cillian Vallely including the three-stroke reel Timmy’s Place and the eponymous almost-slide. The pumping Snowball jigs bring us to a real Jekyll & Hyde selection, a gentle Marche Processional from Pontevedra (where it’s all too easy to step off the bus between Santiago and Vigo), followed by a virile polka and an absolute monster of a muñeira. Lá Nua ends on a big set of reels: Inverness County from Canada, The Beauty Spot from the heart of the Irish tradition, and another of Kevin Crawford’s which releases the musical floodgates.

I’m assuming you all know the Lúnasa line-up, but there has been a recent change. Donagh Hennessy has vacated the guitarist’s chair for the formidable Paul Meehan. Maybe that’s shaken up the mix a bit, but the guitar itself is as steady and subtle as ever. The rest of the group are playing with more abandon: Kevin’s flute seems freer, unfettered, and Sean’s fiddle is back to its boyish brashness. Even Trevor Hutchinson’s bass is more prominent than usual, which I find very positive. There are some calmer moments, twin whistles on the air Raven’s Rock and solo flute on Tune for Dad, but most of Lá Nua is lively enough. P-Celtic harmonies on Tro Breizh, Balkan twists on The Connacht Heifers, and a couple of Scottish reels ending with Allan MacDonald’s Tatties and Herring: all serve to situate Lúnasa at the centre of European acoustic music. Even so, it only takes a touch of Cillian’s pipes to remind us that their roots are firmly anchored in Irish peat.

Pure instrumental genius, of course: another marvellous CD from a quintet who must now be beyond supergroup status. They even have their own record label!
Alex Monaghan


The Lights of Ranzanico
Own Label DMCD001
10 tracks, 40 minutes

This recording is close to perfection. Cork piper Diarmaid Moynihan is one of the most talented players of his generation, and a prolific and respected composer, who gained global recognition with the band Calico. Donncha was also a key component of Calico, playing guitar and bouzouki, after a spell with all-girl group Calando. I think the beard gave him away in the end. Interestingly, his colleague in another band based on long blond hair has just surfaced with The London Lasses: Elma McElligott played flute with Donncha in the group Tassida. Be that as it may, the Moynihan brothers make a tight and intuitive duo here. Diarmaid’s pipes are in fantastic form - just listen to his air Pairc na Marbh, and Donncha’s accompaniment on the following reels is spot on. The guitar on Donncha’s own tune Long Haul Hush perfectly complements Diarmaid’s whistle. I could listen to their duets for the whole album: Diarmaid’s dreamy slow reel Ivory Lady recorded recently by Lúnasa, old reels and jigs incisively played on pipes and whistle, and another of Donncha’s airs on solo guitar. But there’s much, much more here.

First, the Moynihan lads are joined by ace Galician piper Anxo Lorenzo for a stupendous opening track. Tejedor’s great Spanish jig Barralin leads into the title tune (another of Diarmaid’s), and then Mairtin O’Connor’s supercharged Rockin’ the Boat. Somehow, just two pipers manage to sound like a full pipe band on the Breton march Pont de Loudeac. North Cregg’s box-player, Christy Leahy adds his mighty punch to another pair of Diarmaid’s tunes, La Tramontana and Shoulder Dancing, and to a set of traditional reels. There are also some nice touches of trumpet, piano, bass and percussion at various points. In between, Diarmaid delivers another gorgeous slow air and a rather funky reel, and the brothers are joined by their sister Deirdre for a fresh take on the Calico favourite Covering Ground. It’s all stirring stuff, and I can’t see how it could have been better, unless there was more of it.

The Lights of Ranzanico is an album to be seized upon, greedily devoured or lovingly cherished: a highlight of the year.

Alex Monaghan


By Day & By Night
Lo La Records LL005
13 tracks, 59 minutes
The fourth album by The London Lasses and Pete Quinn marks a decade of the band’s development. There are a couple of line-up changes since their last recording, Enchanted Lady. Elma McElligott from Listowel takes over flute duties from Dee Havlin, a tough act to follow. Kathleen O’Sullivan is replaced by Rostrevor singer, Brona McVittie, who adds harp as well as vocals. Brona sings four songs on this CD, two in Irish and two in English, ranging from the well-known tear-jerker A Stór Mo Chroí to a very un-Clannad version of Bean an Tí. I was particularly struck by The Ballyronan Maid, an Ulster song which I hadn’t heard before: its challenging melody would be a splendid slow air, and the young woman of the title is crafty and liberated enough to make this a very suitable song for The London Lasses. I love the florid neo-classical vocabulary of this type of ballad, with bright Phoebus adorning the firmament as the nymphs and cherubs disport themselves on the sylvan slopes of Strangford. The last line here is especially pleasing for its blunt pre-Victorian take on courtship: The time is nigh when I’ll enjoy my comely Ballyronan maid.
When she’s not singing, Brona joins Pete Quinn to form the rhythmic backbone of the Lasses. Their firm rhythms and carefully chosen harmonies provide the platform for fiddles, flute and button box to strut their stuff. A glance at the album cover shows the grace and poise of these ladies, and their playing is every bit as elegant. Karen Ryan and Elaine Conwell open proceedings on twin fiddles: Hanley’s Tweed, Lad O’Beirne’s Reel, and Launching the Boat which was the title of a one-off album by Síona. Elma takes the lead on Mom’s Jig, a sprightly composition of the much missed Jerry Holland. The deeper resonances of the flute feature on her slow and languorous turn of The Humours of Ballyloughlin. Maureen Linane’s 2-row box starts a joyous pair of barndances, Lord Leitrim and If There Weren’t Any Women in the World: in which case, of course, this would be a solo CD by Pete Quinn. Maureen’s assured playing is also to the fore on a gentle interpretation of Liz Carroll’s glorious reel That’s Right Too, and appropriately enough on Planxty Joe Burke which is one of many Charlie Lennon tunes here.

The girls can get down and dirty too. Reg Hall’s Polka cranks up the tempo, as does Esther’s Reel with its crisply articulated harp runs. The fiddles let rip on Miss McDonald, Rodney Miller’s and the final Piper on Horseback. Frankie Gavin’s jig The Doberman’s Wallet gets a well deserved outing. The melody is never too wild, and the arrangements are always carefully crafted, but there’s plenty of excitement on this recording. One of the refreshing things about The London Lasses is that they are able to handle such a wide ramge of material: and styles. The final set is a good example: the jaunty dancehall piece Chapel Bell, followed by a flowing modal jig and a stately slip-jig, before an up-tempo reel ends this collection. By Night & By Day is a very fine album. The notes are full and absorbing, the artwork is attractive, and the music is perfectly balanced. Pete and the ladies are online at with photos and sample tracks, well worth a visit.

Alex Monaghan


The Press Gang

12 tracks Own Label

Now there once was an Irish ballad group called the Press Gang, famous in Dublin in the early 1970’s and this Press Gang, well they are not those lads. Imagine an informal session with skilled musicians who play with the ease of familiarity and adapt to each nuance of their contemporaries style to enhance each tune for the discerning listener. Well this is the vibe that remains constant within ‘The Press Gang’s’ debut CD which is aptly named ‘The Press Gang.’

Emerging from the traditional music scene of New England, the band comprises of button accordion and Anglo concertina player, Christian ‘Junior’ Stevens, fiddler, Alden Robinson and Owen Marshall on guitars, bouzouki and harmonium.

The CD includes twelve tracks and is a heavy mix of Irish, Appalachian and self composed tunes. The first track showcases ’Mayor Harrison’s Fedora’ and ‘John Stenson’s’, a slow intro into a fast moving blend of buttons and strings which incorporates dynamic key changes and where each instrument is aware of it’s role in the set. ’we have been playing the first two reels for years’ the sleeve note says and it shows. Crossing the Shannon begins with a duelling concertina and fiddle backed by guitar gradually fusing into a nicely paced set with again each instrument deferring agreeably to each other without losing the momentum of the tune. Listen out for Lucy Farr’s Barndance and Naomi’s which are simple yet evocative but my highlight is track five which consists of ‘Whelan’s jig’ followed by Liz Carroll’s Princess Nancy. These are played with a gentleness that contrasts with the high paced reels of earlier but still retains the sparkle of those previous reels. Hayden’s Fancy continues that sparkle andagain the pace suits the tune.

On the down side the sleeve notes could be better structured and it would have been a nice variation to have included a song or two, however, for musicians who don’t proclaim to be singers, ‘The Press Gang’ have created a finely tuned arrangement of tracks executed with style!

Eileen McCabe


Art of Trio WRCD1901

Wren Records 2009 Time 53:48
Accordionist, Luke Daniels displays a superfluity of talent on his newest release ’Art of Trio’. Joined by Donegal fiddler, Theresa Kavanagh and the long established, Mike Galvin on electric guitar, the trio serve up a taste of inspiration with a sidebar of artistic skill.

’Art of Trio’ is impacted throughout by the influence of renowned Teileann fiddle player, Con Cassidy. His name appears frequently in the sleeve notes as many of the tunes are derived from his musical heritage, notably in the marches of Gallagher’s and La Marseillaise which slide through the speakers with clarity and precision whilst maintaining a jaunty marching rhythm and ending with a dulcet sweep of the button and bow.

Cassidy also features vocally as Daniels has chosen to underlie the song Blooming Bright Star of Belle Isle with a reproduction of an RTE interview with Con at his home. It shouldn’t work but it does and is worth repeat listening to ensure the ear has encapsulated every detail and nuance. The detail is there throughout, not withstanding the sometimes fast paced sets and this is highlighted in The Frost is All Over jig set which dances delightfully in the hands of Daniels
and Kavanagh.

Mike Galvin deserves a paragraph all to himself. He plays a Les Paul 1973 custom guitar with subtle melodious undertones and combines rhythm and melody where needed with flowing ease. He superbly pieces together the first reel set Paddy Mac’s. with fluid solo interludes which reinforces his resourcefulness as a musician.

‘Art of Trio’ displays a lucidity of musical taste fused with a defined tempo of talent and whilst the instrumentals somewhat eclipse the vocal input, this CD will leave you feeling pleasingly replenished. Eileen McCabe


The Sligo Indians
Smithsonian Folkways

SFWCD 40545
15 tracks, 53 minutes

How do you put thirty years of music on one CD? Fifteen tracks is a step in the right direction. A 32-page booklet also helps, with contributions from Mick Moloney and Kevin Burke. But it’s the music itself which really counts. When Smithsonian decided to record and document the music of Tony DeMarco, it wasn’t only because he was an influential player who had hardly been recorded before: it was also because of the vibrancy and power of his music. Tony has spent most of the last thirty years entertaining audiences with his New York Sligo fiddling, and still performs regularly at several venues in New York. His music is a living thing, as well as being a window onto the past and a source of new inspiration for today’s players.

Paddy on the Turnpike, The Mullingar Races, The Boys of the Hilltop, The Steampacket: Tony DeMarco’s music is the music of Coleman, Morrison, McGreevy, Reynolds, McGann, Wynne, and many other great Sligo fiddlers. It was also shaped by Paddy and Johnny Cronin, emigrant Kerry fiddlers, as well as by American old-time music. Minnie Dempsey’s Polka, written by Tony for his maternal grandmother, captures the Munster style, and the title track of this recording is straight out of the Appalachian backwoods, but the core of Tony’s repertoire is the Sligo classics, played in the classic Sligo style. Not that Tony doesn’t bring anything new to the music: as well as his own compositions, he has unusual versions of The Monaghan Jig, The Old Dudeen and others, some inspired by Coleman’s recordings. There are three lovely slow airs on this recording too, two well-known traditional pieces - one with striking accompaniment on uilleann pipes - and Andy McGann’s gorgeous tune Rosemary which ends the CD. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s even a song from Seamie O’Dowd to showcase Tony’s back-up fiddling.

Tony is joined here by pipers, fluters, other fiddlers, and a range of accompanists. Peter Horan, Seamus Tansey, Kevin Burke and Jerry O’Sullivan all appear on duet tracks. Charlie Lennon provides piano accompaniment in several places, and the increasingly popular Natalie Haas backs Tony on cello for two slow airs. This is an indication of the high regard in which Tony DeMarco is held by Irish musicians worldwide. Tony also plays the baritone fiddle - a viola, I assume - to add harmonies on a few tracks. The Sligo Indians is full of variety, an entertaining and eye-opening recording of one of Irish music’s vital living links between past generations New York Sligo fiddlers and the players of today. Now Tony DeMarco’s music will be heard more widely, and that’s surely a great thing.

Alex Monaghan


Bosca Ceoil and Fiddle

14 tracks
Key Stone Records</strong>

Tunes are the order of the day with ‘Bosca Ceoil and Fiddle’ the new CD by fiddler, Cathal Clohessy and box player, Eamonn Costello with Rodney Lancashire on bouzouki providing gentle accompaniment.

Bringing a West Limerick and North Connaught influence the lads begin with ’Stray away Child’ a five part jig composed by the late Margaret Barry from Cork. This track sets the tone for the rest of the CD in that it prepares the listener for purely unadorned playing with no added extras. The box and the fiddle blend perfectly together note for note and it is obvious that a lot of technical thought has gone into the tune. This carries through and is apparent in ‘Sean Ryan’s’ set and the ‘Tempest’ set which pace steadily and are again note perfect.

For some reason I can’t quite pinpoint, I prefer the solo renditions on the CD with ’Claw’s Hornpipe’ a composition by Cathal flowing beautifully on the fiddle and Eamonn’s jig ‘Loch Pholl an Ghaine‘
timed flawlessly. Watch out for a breathy waltz by the name of ‘Aille Dhomain’ and an emotive air on track ten in the form of ’Aisling Gheal’.

The detail and historical depth on the sleeve notes are a major benefit to the tune dissection with mini biogs of the composers and descriptive anecdotes adding to the vivid imagery of the recordings.
This CD is all about technical skill and intellectual arrangement with a subtle experimentation on dynamics. If your perception of a good traditional CD is an explosion of fast paced jazzed up music then this is not for you, however, if you prefer thoughtful sensitivity then this is right up your street.

Eileen McCabe


Comb Your Hair and Curl It
Own Label CDMOO 333

14 tracks, 46 minutes

It’s easy to see where the title for this CD came from. There’s a touch of the pre-Raphaelites about Caoimhín’s appearance on the cover which probably made an instant connection with the cantering slip-jig on track two.

In their sombre jackets and open-collared shirts, the Ó’Raghaillaigh boys could have been photographed any time since knee-britches went out of fashion, and Catherine’s little black number is equally timeless. But it’s not just the appearance of these musicians which defies chronological categorisation: their playing is similarly classic and eternal. Flute, fiddle and concertina duck and dive through reels, jigs, slides, hornpipes, marches, barndances and polkas which would all have been familiar to Irish musicians of several previous generations. There are a couple of compositions from the mid twentieth century, but otherwise this is all old material. And who better to bring it alive than this trio of highly respected soloists from County Meath. Catherine is one of the finest flute-players around Dublin, in great demand as a teacher and performer. Micheál is acknowledged as an exceptional young concertinist with a couple of albums under his belt. CaoimhíÌn had moved to the west coast of Ireland a few years ago, fallen in love with the pipes after a duet recording with Mick O’Brien, but he’s apparently back home now and playing fiddle better than ever. You can hear immediately that these three fit perfectly together, the concertina pumping out The Boys of the Lough while flute variations weave around it and fiddle chords cut through the melody.

The music here is a feast of Irish tradition, with plenty of excitement to be had from these grand old tunes. I Buried My Wife and Danced On Top of Her changes dramatically into Petticoat Loose. A Chieftains favourite The Sunny Banks leaps out of a set of reels, the most striking version I’ve ever heard. Drag Her Round the Road opens a deep driving duet between the boys, its low octave melody enhanced by a concertina bass line which maintains its earthy growl through Maid in the Cherry Tree and Jenny Picking Cockles. Another duet becomes a trio as Catherine’s flute tears into The Legacy Jig. Instruments are swapped in and out very effectively throughout this album, varying the sound without losing the mood. Catherine steps back again from a set of stomping slides including O’Keeffe’s and Dawley’s Delight, but the flute comes through strongly on the final three reels: Larkin’s Beehive by Paddy O’Brien, The Road to Lisdoonvarna, and Sean Ryan’s compositionThe Dash to Portobello.
All in all, this is a perfectly balanced recording and a splendid example of traditional duets and trios. Comb Your Hair and Curl It is certainly a hiighlight of 2010 for me.

Alex Monaghan


Pulling Out the Stops

Old Box Records OBR-002,16 tracks
The first impression one gets from handling this new CD production of box player Dan Possumato’s is that there’s no expense spared, nothing left to chance, and it was all prepared with loving attention to detail. While it’s a celebration of music and associated friendships, there’s a note of sadness there, as well. One of the musicians featured is Dan’s good friend, mountain climber Gerard McDonnell, the 37-year-old from Kilcornan, Co Limerick, the first Irish person to reach the summit of K2 the second-highest mountain on earth. Sadly, Ger and ten other climbers didn’t make it back and died in the descent.

Listening to Dan’s new CD, Pulling Out the Stops, is like a return visit with an old friend because I had the pleasure of doing a write-up of his 2007 CD Land of Sunshine, and now once again the sentiments I experienced then are evoked once more in this new album. This production has the honesty and genuineness of an old-time session of friends and neighbours gathered in for an evening’s entertainment. Among the musicians are his good friend, fiddler Kevin Burke, the London-born son of Sligo parents, now resident in Portland, Oregon, where Dan lives, and Mick Mulcrone (vocals, flute, bouzouki) from Ohio, who like Dan, is the son of immigrants. Other friends are, Quentin Cooper (banjo, mandolin, bouzouki), Andrew Dall (bodhrán), Brongaene Griffin (fiddle), Elizabeth Nicholson (Irish harp), Bob Soper (guitar), and Teresa Baker (piano). Incidentally, Dan plays the one-row melodeon and the two-row button accordion.

Gerard McDonnell is heard on two tracks: he sings Molly Brannigan unaccompanied, a song he often sang at festivals and concerts. Ger’s sense of humour is revealed in his treatment of this song of unrequited love which, he once told Dan, is about someone who feels a bit too sorry for himself. In the recurring line at the end of each verse are the words, ‘she left me all alone here for to die’ followed immediately by Ger lilting “ìdidlle-dee-eye-dee-die-dee-die”î and so on, with emphasis on the word die. The other track in which Ger plays a bodhrá·n solo was recorded ‘live’ in April 2002 at the Alaska Folk Festival when he and Dan were members of the group Last Night’s Fun.

Mick Mulcrone is a dab hand at the singing and gives us three songs: The Boys of Mullaghbawn, Stephen Foster’s Hard Times, and Welcome Paddy Home which he got from the singing of Cathal McConnell. The tunes range through jigs, reels, hornpipes, and Planxty Dermot Grogan, composed for the man named in the title by Mayo harpist and concertina player Holly Geraghty. A final note: Dan has arranged for a donation from the sale of each CD to go to Ger McDonnell’s memorial fund to provide assistance to the children of the Sherpa and Pakistani porters who died that day. That would be reason enough to buy this CD, but it stands on its own as a fine example of what Dan’s friend Mikey Beglan said of the musicians featured and what they represent: ‘regardless of their individual talents they were servants of the collective tradition’ they all loved and respected.

Aidan O’Hara


One More Day

Own Label

Rising Gael is a young Irish band based in Madison, Wisconsin, a singing, instrumentalist, and dancing quartet – well, three of them dance and I’m told the other member throws some interesting shapes, all in rhythm to the beat, of course. Erin Ellison (vocals, flute, whistles) is the group leader and has her own skilled and distinctive style of playing on the whistle. She’s a student of Irish literature and language at Boston College. Jeff Olson (bodhrán, Scottish bagpipes) has also developed a unique playing style on his favoured instrument, the hand-held drum. He inherited his love of things Scottish and Irish from his parents.

Peter Tissot (guitar) gets his chosen instrument work sympathetically for the singer in many song types – trad and contemporary – and he manages a useful percussive treatment in the dance tunes and he’s a good hand at devising rhythmic riffs here and there. Katie Dionne (fiddle) also grew up with Irish musical influences all round her and has a strong fiddle bowing technique that at times – it seems to me – to reflect a Nova Scotia style of fiddling in her playing. Speaking of which … The first track is the well-known, Nova Scotia Farewell, a song collected by the late Helen Creighton in that Canadian maritime province, is given a contemporary treatment, keeping the distinctive rhythm but sung to a different air. There is an increasing tendency among younger groups to do this sort of thing, deconstructing a familiar song and presenting it in a new musical dress. I’m all for innovation and imaginative treatments, but I have to confess I prefer to see well-established songs like Nova Scotia Farewell left alone and wearing their old wear-worn cosy dress of an air we all know so well.

The range of songs is, to say the least varied: trad numbers like She Moved Through the Fair (except it’s ‘He’ who does the moving because the song is sung by Erin), Bold Riley, and Stretched on Your Grave. The group perform a couple of their own songs, as well, and I really liked Jeff (pipes) and Peter’s instrumental piece, Tóirneach (Gaelic for thunder). Members of the group are still studying at university but seem keen to continue with their music when they’re through with ‘the books’. Their music and performances are full of vim and vigour, and if this is anything to go by, well, they should do well.

Aidan O’Hara